Poem: Grandmother Cellist


The Sense of Hearing by Philippe Mercier

The Sense of Hearing by Philippe Mercier, oil on canvas, 1744-1747, via Wikimedia Commons.

Grandmother Cellist

For Joan Esch

Grandmother cellist,
play tonight your deepest,
most foundational sound,
your wrist drawing arcs
with the bow, your fingers
endearing themselves to the strings,
unending resonance, unending.

Dear Grandmother, you with these
young players, I know you are overheard
by someone in the kitchen,
her hands in hot water,
scrubbing the reek from a burned pot
after supper. Your arc of notes —
heard, too, perhaps, upstairs,
in some mother’s sick-bed;
she’s lying in after the birth.

Did you croon to her in labor?
The infant, released at last
from her body, crying
in this new world of breath.

— Mary Ann Barton